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Tag: justina chen

Gone Camping: Novels Set At Summer Camp

Image from photos/26316553@N07/2896539401/.

Summer camp.  For many teens, those two words evoke all sorts of powerful memories and emotions.  As someone who attended and later worked at a few different kinds of summer camps, I too associate summertime with that special otherworld of camp life.  Whether it’s an academic summer program on an unfamiliar college campus, an wilderness adventure in the woods, or some other uniquely themed summer-only community experience, camp life often seems to be an escape from teens’ everyday lives.

Camp can be the rare place where you suddenly fit in and find others who share your passions.  Camp can be a dependable community where you feel the freedom to be a different–and perhaps more authentic–version of yourself.  Camp can also be the time and place when you discover new interests or new aspects of your identity.  Like all tightly knit and highly organized communities, camp can also be a place that reinforces certain expectations or ideals, making it a trap rather than an escape.  In all cases, summer camp also seems to be one of the best settings for diverse and strong coming of age tales.  Just check out a few of the fabulous young adult novels set at summer camp!

the summer i wasn't meThe Summer I Wasn’t Me – Jessica Verdi

Lexi will do almost anything to maintain her relationship with her mother, especially since her dad’s recent death.  But when she figures out that Lexi’s in love with a girl, her mom plunges even deeper into depression and anxiety.  Desperate to preserve her family, Lexi agrees to attend New Horizons, a Christian summer camp that promises to teach her how to fight off her SSA–same sex attraction. Lexi’s determined to change–but she wasn’t counting on meeting Carolyn.

Wildlife – Fiona Wood (2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

wildlifeSince her aunt used her as a model in local billboard, Sibylla’s fairly mediocre social life has started to shift in unexpected ways.  Suddenly, she’s not entirely sure what to expect from the upcoming wilderness term.  Handsome Ben kissed her at a party over the holidays but hasn’t said much since and her longtime best friend Holly seems intensely invested in Sib & Ben’s potential romance.  Meanwhile, new girl Lou simply wants to muddle through this strange first term without having to discuss her dead boyfriend or her still crushing grief.  But in this unfamiliar environment, relationships of all kinds undergo unforeseen transformations.

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Some Recent YA Contemporary Romances

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, here are some recent romances that I loved. I hope you enjoy them too. What I love about these books is that they’re not just about romance, they’re so much more. They talk about guilt, death, dreams, business plans, friendship, loyalty, family, photography, running, fitting in, being in the spotlight, and learning about yourself.

book crush

Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
When Lainey’s boyfriend of two years breaks up with her, she’s devastated. She’s determined to win him back. Lainey and her BFF pour over the  Art of War looking for a battle plan. Lainey and her co-worker agree to fake-date each other to woo back their exes with jealousy.  As the summer progresses, she learns a little more about herself and who she wants to be.

Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen
Shana’s officially on a boy moratorium since the last one broke her heart. She’s hoping to create one last picture for her photography portfolio when she meets Quattro.  She keeps seeing him wherever she goes – including her family’s trip to Machu Picchu. Could the universe be trying to tell her something?

Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda
Annie’s ex-boyfriend died while in the middle of training for a marathon. Annie’s consumed with guilt since they hung out the night he died. She decides to train for the marathon – running in his honor.  Annie hires a trainer; Matt has all sorts of helpful hints besides just a running plan. But even he can’t get rid of the guilt or her stomach problems. Matt’s brother runs with them occasionally and he makes Annie feel, something she hasn’t been able to do since Kyle’s death. 

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Books For Every Class In Your Schedule (Part 3)

Photo by JohnathanLobel. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Photo by JohnathanLobel. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Today we will finish up our class schedule with books on math, history and art!

Period 6: Math – Gretchen Kolderup
Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen
Patty Ho is half-Taiwanese and half-white, a math genius, and in trouble with her mother after a fortune teller sees a white boy in her future. When her mom ships her off to math camp for the summer, she thinks she’s in for months of boredom surrounded by Asian math nerds.
But things might not be as desperate as they seem (she does meet a cute boy!), and Patty might just learn something about her family and herself. Well-developed characters and a relatable story of discovering who people are beneath the surface.


Mixed, But Not Mixed Up: Biracial Characters in YA Lit

I’m not that far past being a teen myself, but as someone who is biracial, I think today’s YA audience is a bit luckier than I am when it comes to finding someone who shares their background in a novel. Since teens of today have been allowed to identify legally as “more than one race,” it makes perfect sense that more YA novels have featured biracial characters.

The best part? Sometimes they don’t even have to be problem novels about racism. Progress, folks!

I presented research on this topic at YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium, and I still have plenty more titles on my reading list. I also discovered an academic text on being mixed race in YA (sadly, due to a snafu, I have yet to read it): Mixed Heritage in Young Adult Literature by Nancy Thalia Reynolds (Scarecrow Press, 2009).

Here, though, are a few titles I’ve read thus far that your mixed and unmixed teens alike should find compelling and fun.

cuba 15 nancy osa cover

  • Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa (Delacorte Press, 2003) is about Violet Paz, a half-Cuban, half-Polish American girl whose family is insisting she have a quinceañero, or a traditional coming-out for girls when they turn 15. That would be fine, except that Violet’s father refuses to delve into his youth in Cuba, and Violet feels that it would be insincere to have a Cuban party when she knows next to nothing about Cuba. So she takes it upon herself to do a little research, at the risk of keeping secrets from her family. Osa’s approach to the topic is light, and you don’t have to be mixed to enjoy the book.